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As optometry technology evolves, many optometrists predict that utilizing OCT eye exam in practice will be vital in maximizing patient care. That is why successfully integrating an OCT device into your optometry practice workflow is instrumental to its clinical and commercial success.
Optometrists from different countries often have the same questions about how to successfully integrate an OCT device into an Optometrist Practice, regardless of practice size or experience level. How to make patients feel comfortable? How to explain the importance of regular OCT scans? Will patients understand what is an OCT scan of the eye? How do we avoid patients thinking we want to perform OCT eye exams just to earn more money? The process of introducing OCT to patients is complex and covers many areas.
If we speak to optometry practices, both those who are new to OCT and those who have had the OCT device for many years, most of them will want to improve the ROI and ensure the patients are gaining the full value of the OCT eye test. This article will show you 5 tips for successfully introducing the OCT eye exam to your patients.
Remember why you invested in the OCT technology
One may think that only novice optometrists tend to underestimate their work or do not feel confident about the value they give to patients. However, some experienced clinicians also avoid offering OCT eye tests because they think they are ‘overselling’ with additional fees for OCT, Optos, or other diagnostic exams.
That is why it is important to remember why you invested in OCT technology in the first place. In almost all cases, this is to improve the clinical standard of eye care that you offer to your patients. In fact, when I ask some optometrists if they want a member of their families to have an OCT eye exam, the answer is always ‘Yes, of course!’. So if you strongly recommend undergoing an examination to your relatives, why would you not recommend an OCT eye test for your patients?
Before a patient comes into the practice, one of the most important things you need to do is not undervalue your time, skills, and experience when charging for the additional time the OCT exam takes to interpret and discuss.
Implementing an OCT eye exam into regular practice improves clinical care and can generate a commercial benefit as well by increasing revenue through fees, patient retention, and loyalty. Moreover, word of mouth is often the most significant source of new patients for optometrists. If the patient feels you are confident in everything you do, it will make them more likely to recommend you to friends and family
Explain the importance of OCT eye exam for early detection
From the first touch point, the patient should understand that your optometric practice takes its business seriously and provides additional diagnostic examinations, such as the OCT, to improve the quality of care. The first impression of your approach is very important, so it is crucial to start introducing the technology to the potential patient from the first point of contact.
As a rule, the beginning of a patient’s introduction to the OCT eye exam starts with several touch points. Whether they make their appointment for the eye examination through your website, mobile application, in person, or by phone, the most important thing you can do is create an integrated and comfortable patient journey.
Before a patient comes into the practice, you should explain the importance of the OCT device and its benefits compared to the standard examination. Even when the patient is fully acquainted with the OCT eye exam, they may still need help understanding why this particular imaging method is necessary. The ability of OCT eye exam to detect diseases in the early stages makes this technology indispensable for optometrists and patients and this is why it is such an excellent tool for diagnosing eye diseases.
More importantly, avoid frightening patients with stories about difficult-to-treat rare pathologies. Instead of talking about the pathology consequences, say that the OCT eye exam scan provides a clear map that helps locate areas of the eye with abnormalities or early changes.
Understand the importance of a healthy-eye-as-a-baseline concept
In this section, I want to discuss the concept of a healthy eye in more detail. When a patient comes to you for an examination, it is essential to use the correct narrative that the optometrist should use when discussing the results of an OCT eye exam with patients. It is important to emphasize that we are not looking for pathology but a healthy eye.
We know that we will detect pathology in certain patients. The number of patients likely to have at least one pathology increases if you work with an older population. However, finding a healthy baseline scan is an important part of monitoring the long-term eye health of the patient.
Talking about baseline, make sure to emphasize how great it is to find a healthy eye in a patient. Explain that together you found a nice, healthy eye so you have the baseline to compare with the patient’s future scans. Emphasize that, hopefully, you will find a healthy eye at the next eye examination, but if anything does start to change, then with the help of an OCT eye exam, you will be able to detect these early and minor changes as you have the healthy baseline scan to compare to.
It is necessary to develop your patient’s understanding through appropriate teaching and discussion. Giving the value of the baseline OCT eye exam to your patients is very important. Notice the difference between “We found nothing” and “We found a healthy eye”. The first statement is negative and undermines the reason for the scanning of patients for a healthy eye baseline. Meanwhile, the second statement is positive and clearly gives your patient more value as you have found what you are looking for.
Integrate the OCT eye exam into the patient workflow
Another one of my recommendations is to call the eye examination that includes the OCT eye exam the Advanced or Comprehensive Eye Examination. It is important to make sure all the staff members use the same terminology and your message to a patient is consistent from first contact to the end of the practice visit. The eye examination without the OCT exam can be called the ‘Standard Examination’ as we are not trying to make the ‘normal’ eye examination appear below standard, what we are trying to do is explain that the practice is invested in the latest technology to offer the most advanced (or comprehensive) examination for your patients benefit.
For example, when a patient books an appointment, make sure that the support staff uses the same terminology as written throughout the website, reminder letter/email, or mobile app if you have one.
When you review the OCT images with the patient, explain that you are going to look at the OCT images of the retina, which is part of the ‘Advanced examination’. When a patient pays at the end of the customer journey, make sure that the ‘Advanced Examination’ is mentioned again. When a patient rings up or books online for the next OCT eye exam, then they will understand what the ‘Advanced examination’ means and are more likely to select this option straight away for future examinations.
Concentrate on giving more value to your patients
Review the results with the patient to give them the actual value of an OCT scan. This will allow you to establish communication with the patient and improve their perception. Give them the “theatre” around the additional diagnostic testing so they understand how it applies to them and feel valued.
Remember that your knowledge, enthusiasm, and the extent to which the patient is involved in the process directly affect the clinical and commercial success. Dedicate time to each patient, involve them in the diagnostic process, and explain the OCT scans of their eyes on the screen.
How can Altris AI help with introducing OCT Eye Exam
When talking about improving the clinical standard of care your practice offers to your patients, the Altris AI platform can also improve the standard of care you offer to your patients. The platform helps to quickly determine if the eye is healthy. If pathology is detected, then Altris AI identifies the very early, rare, or minor changes that can be the start of something more severe. Altris AI detects over 70 pathologies and pathological signs. If early pathology is identified, then the Altris AI platform can help educate the patient by clearly highlighting the areas of concern and then giving you the opportunity to discuss lifestyle changes, over-the-counter medications, or supplements, which may help the patient now rather than just monitoring until it is time to refer.
The Altris AI platform can improve the patient’s understanding of the OCT exam and add value to the Advanced Eye Examination.
All you need to do is to upload an OCT macula exam to the platform and Altris AI will assess the exam by severity differentiating the b-scans between high, medium, and low severity levels. The segmentation/classification module will highlight pathological signs on the OCT scan one by one and give the classification/s of any pathology found to support you with the diagnosis. Meanwhile, in the Comparison module of the platform, you are able to compare the baseline scan with the current one.
Remember why you invested in the OCT technology in the first place — usually, this is to improve the clinical standard of care you can offer to your patients. The improvement in clinical care can also generate a commercial benefit as well by increasing revenue through OCT exam fees, patient satisfaction, patient retention and loyalty, and an increase in recommendations of friends and family.
Build a patient journey in such a way that, at each stage, they know that they have received a new, exciting, and, important part for the most comprehensive examination you offer. Remember that the more skill and enthusiasm you show, the more you can interest the patient and increase the probability that they will return for their next examination with OCT.
In addition, consider using modern AI tools to help you with decision-making. Image management systems like Altris AI can help you interpret the OCT scans faster and with more confidence. This will leave more time to add value for your patient, and integrating AI into practice can be another example of how you are investing in the latest technology to benefit your patients.